First LDE-CEL Doctoral Symposium at ICLON in Leiden

By Gillian Saunders-Smits, Vivian van der Werf, Erna Engelbrecht, Gitte van Helden and Manuel Valle Torre.

On Tuesday 22 February the first LDE-CEL Doctoral Symposium took place kindly hosted by Roeland van der Rijst, current director of ICLON in Leiden. A total of more than 16 PhDs and 8 members of staff from the educational research community of LDE got to know each other over pizza and soft drinks. Facilitated by the academic staff PhDs discussed in small groups some of the challenges they faced during their PhD in the areas of time management; cultural responsive teaching and culture in the workplace; when to start your experiment; and assessment and learning theories.

LDE-CEL Doctoral Symposium

The main outcomes are reported at the end of this article. This meeting is the first of hopefully many LDE-CEL doctoral students’ meetings which will alternate in locations between Leiden, Delft and Rotterdam and are open to any LDE PhD student or researcher in education and their supervisors. The next meeting will be on 26th April at Rotterdam, more information, send an e-mail to

Time Management

The group on time management was looking for tips on how to cope with an overload of different tasks (e.g. different research projects, lecturing). Their main finding was that it all has to do with keeping your focus on the tasks at hand, and they came up with the following top tips: 

  • Keeping an ongoing task list in, for example, outlook. Write down everything to get the task 'out of your head'
  • Timeboxing, set times for the task you want to do
  • creating a dedicated space for work (also when you are working from home)
  • Make sure that there are enough moments where you feel at ease. Take days off/ holidays and find hobbies that are different from your work 
  • A rule to not let your task list become too large: “if it costs me less than 2 minutes, I'll do it now”.
LDE-CEL Doctoral Symposium


Cultural responsive teaching, and culture in the workplace

Their conversation was centred around hierarchical versus egalitarian work culture. People explained how they struggled to get started with their PhD studies because they were waiting for instructions and permission to carry out certain tasks. Because their supervisors were expecting them to take more initiative (but did not communicate this), both were waiting for each other without anything getting done. They talked about how isolated this makes them feel, and that they struggle to figure out how things work because not enough information is given to them. In a more egalitarian work culture, employees are expected to take initiative, and there is an open-door policy that not everyone is quite used to. Their top tip for supervisors:

Cultural differences are something that supervisors should keep in mind. As part of the introduction meeting with your PhD, it would be good to include a discussion on the differences in work culture (if the candidate is from a different culture, of course) and make mutual expectations clear.

LDE-CEL Doctoral Symposium


When to start your experiment

In the group “When to start your experiment”, the following top tips were devised:

  • Your supervisors are responsible for you. Check with them, and if they give you the Go Ahead, they deem you ready.
  • Do some “expectation management”: what does the supervisor (not) expect from you, but also, what can you (not) expect from them (in your supervision).
  • For feedback on writing: create an environment where you share also drafts and unfinished work for your peers and other team members to read and react upon. Ask for feedback even in the early stages. (Although some supervisors may want to just read a “final draft”).
  • Participate in journal or conference review processes
  • Send in your work to an esteemed conference or journal (one that you expect to provide you good feedback in their reviews) to learn. If it gets accepted: double bonus!
  • You are never “ready” in the sense that there is always something else to read. Find a balance between reading and starting. You have to start at some point. And know that even when you start, you don’t automatically stop reading, it happens simultaneously.
  • Make your decisions based on what you do know (check with your supervisor), and write down your steps (much like social science and qualitative research).
  • Finally, if your experiment does not quite go as planned, all is not lost. You may still be able to have sufficient data for a paper and you will have learned from it and gained experience which will come in useful when you design your next experiment.
LDE-CEL Doctoral Symposium


Assessment and Learning Theories

Their main takeaways were:

  • Context is key for research in Social Sciences: culture, location, time, etc.
  • You can't know everything, but you have to be able to explain and support your decisions, have a clear course of actions for others to learn from and transfer to their context
  • In Education Research, keep contact with teachers and students, it's not only about articles and papers
  • Formative assessment:
    1. Clear learning objectives, involving the learners as much as possible
    2. Elicit evidence of learning, learners are able to see and show progress
    3. Provide feedback to move forward
    4. Activate learners as a resource to each other, during learning and during assessment
    5. Activate learners as owners of their learning
Klapwijk & van der Burg

from Klapwijk & Van der Burg (2019)

They also listed a number of useful references:

  • Dylan Wiliam. Embedded formative assessment. Solution tree press, 2011.
  • John Hattie and Gregory CR Yates. Visible learning and the science of how we learn. Routledge, 2013.
  • John Hattie. Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge, 2008.
  • Shirley Clarke. Outstanding formative assessment: Culture and practice. Hachette UK, 2014.
  • Liesbeth Baartman and Judith Gulikers. Assessment in Dutch vocational education: Overview and tensions of the past 15 years." Enhancing Teaching and Learning in the Dutch Vocational Education System (2017): 245-266.
  • Remke Klapwijk and Niels van den Burg "Formative Assessment in Primary Design Education - involving pupils in clarifying the learning goal of divergent thinking" PATT Developing a knowledge economy through technology and engineering education (2019)